Thursday, 16 February 2012

Arboreal Cafe-Kitchen-Bar, Cowbridge Review

Mrs G and I are in the process of doing up our home. It’s been progressing at a snail’s pace due to a lack of funds, time and motivation. After 2 years we’ve only finished the dining room. The rest of the house is a jumble of second hand furniture, soiled carpets and peeling wallpaper. Our most well used piece of furniture, the sofa, has three wooden legs and a fourth made from the hardback autobiographies of C-list celebrities.

One day, I’d like to own a Chesterfield sofa like that in the bar area of Arboreal in Cowbridge. In fact I’d happily swipe all of their furniture, wallpaper and light fittings. Arboreal is the kind of place that makes you feel vicariously cool just from being there. Its design is an inspired mix of English country, shabby chic and Scandinavian minimalism.

I’ll stop harping on about the design now. The food at Arboreal is excellent too and fits perfectly with the look and feel of the space (sorry I said I’d shut up about that). Arboreal serves light, laid back, cross-cultural and clean tasting food with a few interesting flavour combinations. They let the ingredients talk for themselves. We visited in the evening when the menu consists of sharing plates, pizzas, starters, mains and desserts. However they’re also open for breakfast when they serve dishes like baked eggs with Serano ham and Hafod cheddar or lunch when they serve flatbreads filled with curious combinations such as Caerphilly cheese and purple sprouting broccoli. Arboreal also has an extensive cocktail menu if you just want to get smashed and have a few nibbles to go with your liquid supper.

To start, the 4 of us ordered a mezze platter for 2 (£14.50) and a smokehouse platter for 2 (£14.50). Both were delicious. Standouts of the mezze included a smoky roasted aubergine with pomegranate molasses and a palette refreshing taboulleh. The winners of the smokehouse platter included a flavour packed smoked haddock, mackerel and potato terrine and a smoked salmon, cucumber and dill mayonnaise crostini.

For mains I wanted to put the woodfired pizza oven, on view in the open plan kitchen, to the test. I ordered the Pizza Fiorentina (£10.50) which arrived with a perfectly runny egg on top. I’d have liked the crust a little crisper but that’s just a minor issue.

Mrs G ordered Sumac roasted salmon with roasted Jerusalem artichokes, melted leeks and lemon beurre blanc (£15.95). The Jerusalem artichokes were a welcome change from potatoes whilst the beurre blanc was rich and buttery with a good whack of lemon. It was a success.

Our friends ordered the braised beef chilli (£15.95) and the coq au vin (£15.95). Neither dish disappointed. The chilli was packed with hunks of tender beef in a winter warming spiced sauce whist the coq au vin was served with some seriously unctuous creamy mash.

Desserts kept up the high standard of the mains. My super rich chocolate and rum tart (£5.50) was balanced by a fragrant and slightly sharp passion fruit cream. Mrs G’s smooth vanilla cheesecake (£5.50) worked well with the accompanying boozy raisins and hazelnuts whilst our friends enjoyed their apple and frangipane tart with vanilla sauce and caramel (£5.50).

My only minor gripe with Arboreal is I feel some of their prices are a little steep. Granted they’re in Cowbridge so they can add a couple of quid to typical Cardiff prices. However, £15.95 for the student classic chilli con carne is still on the pricey side. In spite of this, Arboreal is the perfect place to spend a chilled out evening with friends in a relaxed environment. If good architecture and good food make you happy then Arboreal will put a massive grin on your face.

The details:
Arboreal, 68 Eastgate, Cowbridge, CF71 7AB
Telephone: 01446 775 093


  1. Excellent blog! You have just improved my life in Cardiff.

  2. Thanks. That's really kind of you to say so.

  3. I am so excited to have found your blog! Being a bit of a foodie and having just moved to the area, I plan on visiting your blog often for tips on local places!!!

  4. Thanks and welcome to South Wales! I'm glad you like the blog. Hope it's helpful. Let me know if you ever need any specific tips.